Kashmir's main Opposition party People's Democratic Party on Sunday said it has decided to oppose the Police Bill, which gives sweeping powers to police personnel in the state. The bill is likely to be introduced in the next assembly session.
Describing the proposed bill an attempt to institutionalise the dreaded counter-insurgency group, Ikhwan, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said, "Police in the state definitely are in a need of drastic reforms but many provisions in this bill are undemocratic and anti-people and will take the state back to medieval times when khaki uniform struck terror in the hearts of people."
Mehbooba said J&K has the dubious distinction of having been reduced to a police state outside the democratic system of the country but the proposed bill would actually convert it to a lawless state.
"If this bill is allowed to pass in its present form we will have an Ikhwani state, in which the thanedar and not the democratic institutions or the elected representatives will set the rules of society," she said.
"On one hand, the government is making noises on scrapping the AFSPA, on the other hand, it is proposing to provide similar immunity and unbridled powers to its own police and taking them out of all civilian control and guidance," she added.
Mehbooba said the proposal to create special security zones and legalisation of village defence committees, which could be administered according to the discretion of police through SPOs, is dangerous for any society, but for a conflict-ridden area it could be a sure prescription for continuing the disturbed conditions and denial of basic rights.
She said police, in fact, need to be brought out of the colonial mindset and practices that were followed by feudal forces to stay in power and the objective of any new law should be to make it more accountable to democratic institutions, people friendly and socially oriented. The proposed law unfortunately negates any such purpose, she said.
Mehbooba said this draft legislation has all the criteria of a systematic undermining of democracy: the abdication of authority to security forces by an elected government, military-style 'civilising' of civilian society by insultingly presuming to teach them how to stand in line, urinate and defecate. It also has ring of an effort to appease the muscular nationalists in Delhi with an argument against AFSPA by morphing it into a 'non-military' AFSPA that is supposedly willed by 'the people' of our state, she said.
Mehbooba said several backdoor offences have been included to increase the criminal liability of the public.
"The bill envisages to jail people for petty offences. If this bill is passed, then a person can be jailed for wrong parking, cleaning furniture in a public place, urinating on the roadside, not caring for pets, overtaking and breaking a queue for essential supplies. It provides for arrest of a person in case of non-rendering of assistance to a police officer," she said.
Mehbooba added that this government is unable to look beyond repressive measures to run the state and treats everybody as a criminal. "We are living in an era of democracy and the laws have to conform to the basic principle of respecting every individual's rights."
The PDP has decided that it would not allow any further erosion of people's rights and would strive harder for their empowerment.
Mehbooba said the government had deliberately chosen this time for inviting suggestions on the bill when means of communication have been severely restricted. She said the backdrop of Afzal Guru's hanging should have led the government to introspect on the effects of having an unjust system, which alienated a generation of youth and forced them to take to arms.
"It is this system that ultimately pushed Guru to gallows that prevailed in the state before 2002 and which the present government is trying to revive and institutionalise though the Police Bill just to remain in power. It is time for the entire society to rise against such perverse application of the concept of police reform," she said.